Integrating agroecology and landscape multifunctionality in Vermont: An evolving framework to evaluate the design of agroecosystems

Sarah Taylor Lovell, S'ra DeSantis, Chloe A. Nathan, Meryl Breton Olson, V. Ernesto Méndez, Hisashi C. Kominami, Daniel L. Erickson, Katlyn S. Morris, William B. Morris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Agroecosystems cover vast areas of land worldwide and are known to have a large impact on the environment, yet these highly modified landscapes are rarely considered as candidates for landscape design. While intentionally-designed agricultural landscapes could serve many different functions, few resources exist for evaluating the design of these complex landscapes, particularly at the scale of the whole-farm. The objective of this paper is to introduce an evolving framework for evaluating the design of agroecosystems based on a critical review of the literature on landscape multifunctionality and agroecology. We consider how agroecosystems might be designed to incorporate additional functions while adhering to agroecology principles for managing the landscape. The framework includes an assessment tool for evaluating farm design based on the extent of fine-scale land use features and their specific functions, to consider the present state of the farm, to plan for future conditions, or to compare alternative futures for the design of the farm. We apply this framework to two farms in Vermont that are recognized locally as successful, multifunctional landscapes. The Intervale Center, an agricultural landscape located within the city limits, serves as an incubator for new farm startups and provides unique cultural functions that benefit the local community. Butterworks Farm, a private operation producing organic yogurt and other food products, achieves important ecological functions through an integrated crop-livestock system. These farms and many others in Vermont serve as models of a framework that integrates landscape multifunctionality and agroecology in the design of the landscape. In the discussion section, we draw from the literature and our work to propose a set of important themes that might be considered for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)327-341
Number of pages15
JournalAgricultural Systems
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Ecological design
  • Ecosystem services
  • Food systems
  • Landscape multifunctionality
  • Multifunctional agriculture
  • Rural planning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science


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